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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

fall TV preview for geeks

Here’s something you don’t hear folks say a lot: I don’t get to watch as much TV as I’d like. Most evenings I’m out at film screenings, and there’s only so much you can TiVo before you give up on ever watching everything (and they’ve yet to come up with a DVR with infinite storage capacity). Even though most TV is complete crap, there’s still more than enough good stuff on the air that it’s not really possible to watch it all unless you make a job of it. I’m not quite ready to do that yet.

So I gotta focus with a laser on what I know I’ve got the best chance of enjoying the most. For me, as a geek, it’s science fiction and fantasy, and boy, there’s a bunch of it coming to the networks’ fall schedule. Forget sitcoms (do people really watch these? this continues to be a great mystery to me). Never mind reality shows (they’re just newfangled game shows). Drama are where primetime TV is at. When TV is at its very best, it’s with the hour-long drama.
Nothing on the roster of new shows that isn’t SF/F intrigues me in the least. There’s crap about women (Gossip Girl, Women’s Murder Club), crap about men (Life, Big Shots), and soap operas (Dirty Sexy Money, Cane), which is crap about everyone. And all the SF/F is likely to be crap, too: I blame the success of everything from Buffy to Six Feet Under to Battlestar Galatica, and now everyone’s jumping on the geek bandwagon. (It’s too soon for the Xerox copies of last year’s hits to show up, but watch for, in Fall 2008, pale imitations of Heroes and Doctor Who.)

But here’s what I’ve got my eye on this season anyway, with fingers crossed that I’m wrong about most of them:

MOST LIKELY TO BE CANCELED AFTER TWO EPISODES:
Pushing Daisies (ABC): Guy with the power to bring the dead back to life resurrects his deceased girlfriend, only now he can never touch her again, lest she die for good. Whatever.

MOST LIKELY TO BE CANCELED AFTER FOUR EPISODES:
Reaper (CW): Slacker gets a new job: bounty hunter for the devil. This one will last a bit longer only because the CW has less stuff it can throw up on the schedule to fill an empty slot.

MOST LIKELY TO MAKE JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS SWOON:
Moonlight (CBS): Cute, do-gooding vampire — oh, is there any other kind? *sigh* — is on the prowl for romance. Turn-ons: Hickeys, blood. Turn-offs: Daylight.

MOST LIKELY TO MAKE ME CRY AND GO RUNNING TO FINALLY BUY A REGION-FREE DVD PLAYER:
Viva Laughlin (CBS): It’s the season’s inevitable crime drama/musical (making it just nominally a fantasy), but here’s why it makes me sad: It’s a redo of the British series Viva Blackpool, starring my boyfriend David “Doctor Who” Tennant, and American TV has an abysmal record of migrating Brit shows across the pond. (Cracker, anyone? Brit version: gripping and fan-freakin’-tastic. American version: *shudder*)

MOST LIKELY TO TOTALLY PISS ME OFF:
Journeyman (NBC): Guy starts traveling through time for no apparent reason, and runs into trouble when he meets, in the past, his former fiancée. His present-time spouse is less than happy about this development. This is so ripped off from the bestselling novel The Time Traveler’s Wife. Oh, and Quantum Leap.

MOST LIKELY TO KEEP ME WATCHING FOR AN ENTIRE SEASON:
Bionic Woman (NBC): Here’s chick doing cool stuff, like saving the world and stuff, plus she’s a cyborg. This is from some of the Battlestar Galactica people, which fills me with great hope.

Mostly, though, I’m looking forward to the return of Heroes and Lost. And to trying not to contemplate how they’ll be ripped off next year.

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  • TV has an abysmal record of migrating Brit shows across the pond.

    Maybe this is the exception that proves the rule, but I think that the U.S. version of The Office is far superior to the U.K. version.

    (Of course, this could be merely the fact that I loathe Ricky Gervais. I feel like I’m the only person in the world who doesn’t think he’s funny. I cheered in my screening of Stardust when Michelle Pfeiffer’s character made him shut the hell up.)

  • aria

    It’s a redo of the British series Viva Blackpool, starring my boyfriend David “Doctor Who” Tennant, and American TV has an abysmal record of migrating Brit shows across the pond.

    Actually, it’s a remake of “Blackpool” (although I think it was renamed “Viva Blackpool” when it was aired in the US – trouble is, the sequel to “Blackpool”, with David Morrissey but without Sarah Parish and David Tennant, was also called “Viva Blackpool”, and that’s what your link points to).

    And no matter how not good “Viva Laughlin” proves to be, you know you owe it to yourself to get “Blackpool” all the same (and not just for David Tennant, although he’s absolutely fantastic in it). It’s probably one of the best mini-series television has offered in ages, no matter how ludicrous the concept sounded before we actually got to see it

  • MaryAnn

    Well, I don’t think I’ll be waiting till *Viva Laughlin* debuts to buy that region-free DVD player and start getting myself massively into debt again with Amazon.co.uk.

  • Newsweek’s blurb on Reaper sounded pretty good, and I loved Jimmy Smits in West Wing, so I might take a look at Cane. But right now I’m rushing through my tapes of Heroes, which I taped during Sci Fi’s marathon and then promptly lost for most of the summer. I should be finished just in time for season 2. Prison Break is the only other show I’m currently keeping up with- it’s not brilliant, but it’s pretty fun and occasionally disturbing.

    Oh, and Avatar: The Last Airbender season 3 starts on the 21st. For the animation fans- it’s the only good thing left on Nickelodeon.

  • “Reaper” sounds suspiciously like a mashup of “Dead Like Me” and “Brimstone.” I hated “Dead Like Me” and I found “Brimstone” to be sorta pointless.

    “Cane” reminds me too much of a certain Karl Edward Wagner character, whose name, of course, is spelled differently but sounds the same. Of course, it is more likely an attempt to emulate the likes of “House” and “Shark.”

    I actually didn’t mind the British version of “The Office” that much. Gervais isn’t my cup of tea, either, but he had a great supporting cast and his show did a better job of conveying the quiet desperation of the typical office worker than the much over-appreciated “Office Space.”

    As long as we’re mentioning “inspirations” for “Journeyman,” I’m surprised you didn’t mention the Britcom “Goodnight, Sweetheart,” whose lead character also travels back in time and also establishes a relationship in the past that conflicts with his present-day marriage. But I’m sure that’s just a coincidence. ;-)

  • Danielle

    The only new show I’m looking forward to is Pushing Daisies. It’s going to be great-looking, it’s gotten some decent early reviews, and I have a thing for Lee Pace since watching the entire series of Wonderfalls a couple months ago.

  • misterb

    There are just too many shows on TV to really watch anything. If you want to live any kind of life (and I’m not criticizing those who choose not to) you simply don’t have time to monitor 20 channels for the good shows. And even the grouchy critics seem to like more and more shows these days, so they aren’t filtering out enough crap. In the good old days, there was only one or two shows worth watching on the 3 or 4 networks, there was no Internet, you had to have a quarter to play Pong, and we had fun I tell you, good clean fun … taking drugs and listening to music without a CRT in sight.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the Britcom “Goodnight, Sweetheart,”

    I’m not familiar with that show.

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